The Philadelphia Flyers have undoubtedly improved their roster from 2016 to 2017, as a simple roster comparison can attest.
After sending Matt Read to waivers, the Philadelphia Flyers essentially finalized their opening night roster. Sure, the Flyers are still planning to cut a defenseman once Shayne Gostisbehere is ready to play (Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim are the likely candidates). But for the most part, the Flyers know which players they’ll be taking to San Jose to face the sharks on Wednesday.
Amidst the frustration and disappointment of Oskar Lindblom failing to make the team in favor of Jori Lehtera, Matt Read (who will take the place of whichever defenseman is cut) and the like, it’s good for one’s mental health to take a step back and appreciate how far the Flyers have come since opening night, 2016. Let’s look at how the roster has changed, position by position.
(For the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume Sanheim gets sent down and Read is returned to the Flyers.)
The Flyers PP1 unit might miss Brayden Schenn, but his departure benefits the team in every other way. Cousins had some potential to become a solid bottom-6 center, but ultimately fell victim to the numbers crunch. Bellemare, VandeVelde, and Gordon were all scrubs, some of whom (all but Gordon) were not used as such.
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Out of the new faces in 2017, only Filppula seems to have a chance at producing a similarly negative effect. Lehtera will be a healthy scratch most nights, and Patrick, Laughton, and Leier actually project to be varying degrees of good. A clear improvement from year to year, even though holes remain.
Two rookies will replace two ineffective veterans (though it could have been three. *sigh*). Perhaps the improvement in performance will seem mild at first, considering the adjustment periods Hagg and Morin will require. But the upsides of the two young’uns are high, and the Flyers will begin to see the fruits of their labors grow as the season progresses. At the very least, they can’t be any worse than a 90-year-old Streit and a skating-through-molasses Schultz.
Both years: Michal Neuvirth
2017: Brian Elliott
2016: Steve Mason
While you can debate whether Elliott or Mason is the superior goalie, simple regression strongly suggests that the Flyers goalies, collectively, will be much improved over last year. Neuvirth’s .891 save percentage just isn’t reflective of his true ability, and Elliott could be anywhere from mediocre (Mason’s level last year) to outstanding (better than Mason ever was).
The Flyers look to have improved in both groups of skaters, and have at minimum held steady in goal. Will it be enough to make the playoffs this year? We’re going to find out, and the journey starts in San Jose.